Saturday morning, more than 340 teams set out early during the Texas Team Trail bass tournament on Toledo Bend, and Derek Mong and his father David immediately made their way to the Six Mile area.
“In the early morning, we started out in a deep pre-spawn area – a 16- to 32-foot drop-off,” the younger Mong said.
Both anglers began by casting V&M Pacemaker football jigs.
“For a while there, we were catching fish on every other cast,” said Derek, 36, of Many. “They were keepers ranging from 2 to 3 pounds.
“We had a limit in the first 10 minutes.”
The anglers culled fish for a while, but only increased weights by a few ounces, so Mong moved shallow to look for larger fish.
In 5 to 8 feet of water, they started casting Jackal Gantarel RT Bluegill swimbaits, which Mong used to catch his last 10.51-pound lunker in December.
But for an hour or so, they failed to get a bite.
The sun was up, so the anglers began exploring 25 known bedding sites in the area.
“We didn’t see any big fish at first,” Mong said.
Finally, the angler saw one that he estimated at 4 pounds, but the fish was spooked and wouldn’t bite.
They moved into a shallow cove accented with hay grass at about 10 a.m., and Mong observed a young male on a bed that he estimated at 1 ½ pounds.
“Then I saw a big girl make a swirl and turned on top of the bed,” he said.
Mong trolled past and turned around to position the boat in casting distance to the bed.
“My father was in the best position to get at the big fish first,” Mong said.
For 10 minutes, the elder Mong flipped a white/pearl V&M Wild Thang Craw, but failed to get the huge sow to hang on to the lure.
Then it was Derek’s turn, and he started pitching a ½-ounce crawdad V&M Pacemaker Adrenaline jig with a green-pumpkin Wild Craw trailer.
The lure was tied to 16-pound Sunline fluorocarbon spooled to an Abu Garcia Revo STX reel on a medium-heavy, 7-foot-3-inch Duckett White Ice rod.
“Some anglers will throw lures in white colors on beds, but I prefer to use natural colors as much as I can,” he said.
On the first flip of the lure, Mong twitched the lure and the male on the center of the nest grabbed it.
“I set the hook and I brought the male in,” he said. “Then I picked up the Power-Poles and drifted back about 40 yards and released the male away from the nest.”
Then he repositioned the boat to begin working at taking the big female. By the time he reached the nest, the lunker had replaced the male and was sitting directly in the middle of the bedding site.
“I flipped the jig back into the nest and I saw her gills flare, indicating she had taken the lure,” Mong said. “She put up a decent fight and stayed for a while between the boat and the hay grass, and then swam out toward deeper water.”
He was able to quickly work the fish back to the boat and into the net held by his father.
A veteran of five previous double-digit bass at Toledo Bend, Mong figured the bass was near the 11-pound mark.
At the tournament scales, he was proven right. Mong’s lunker weighed 11.05 pounds and anchored his team’s official weight of 24.87 pounds — good for a ninth place finish in the tournament.
Since the big bass was officially weighed and released alive, Mong will receive another replica courtesy of the Toledo Bend Lake Association in May.
The angler’s trophy bass is lunker No. 62 for the 2015-16 season of the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program.